Endeguena Mulu delivers another almighty middle finger to the inadequacy of music genres, with his new Ethiopiyawi Electronic project called ‘In My Sleep.’
Please take 20 minutes to immerse yourself in this incredible cross-pollination of ideas and influences. It’s a record that feels utterly effortless in it’s ability to elucidate one man’s vision and co-ordinates in the universe.
E.R’s Artist Statement
“I would like to transfer a few things that I hold dear and believe in when it comes to my music.
First, I don’t like to give a strict definition about Ethiopiyawi Electronic , because it is in its very beginnings and I don’t want to put it in a box. Keep in mind my definition might not be the definition of my fellow Ethiopiyawi Electronic musicians. And yes it is Ethiopiyawi Electronic and not just Ethiopiyawi by itself, Ethiopiyawi means Ethiopian in amharic.
I would say it is a genre that uses Electronic Music tools, and Music Technology to make music that is very deeply rooted in the music from all over Ethiopia.
I feel that It is important that the music is meant to be shared and spread but it is also something very personal, it is also as important to break this cycle that sees African musicians and musicians who dig into traditional music as inspiration including traditional musician from all over the planet, as some exotic brand of musicians.
I am writing this not to blame anyone, I am only stating what I feel about it. Maybe not all I write here is unbiased maybe it’s all opinion maybe it has all been said before but i feel like I need to say it, at least to get it out of my system and put it out there to whoever will listen.
It is important to break that cycle of tribal fetishism and ethnocentrism. It is not just people from the western world who do this , people from my country do this, people from my continent do this. Most press, most coverage of such issues perpetuates tribal fetishism, maybe not always in our case. It is patronizing and condescending to try to label artists in such a manner. Traditional music is not a thing of the past, it is very much alive there are contemporary artist who are still performing it as something that they feel. Some are performing it as it used to be performed keeping the things that have been passed down to them intact. Others are trying to innovate, and both are pushing culture and tradition forward. At the end of the day all music is traditional, new traditions , old traditions , non changing ones ever changing ones.
I am sure we can all find better ways to label and categorize musicians from all over the world , other than putting them in “catch all” labels such as world music .
When a washint player from the highlands of Ethiopia is playing his instrument , he is like any other musician from any other background. He is making sounds that are arranged and played to express what he feels of what he sees around him , of his life , of his surroundings in his own unique way , to have his audience try to connect with him and also have him connect with himself in what he feels, just like any other young musician.
Sometimes you might not even see this washint player playing for an audience , he might be playing for himself and the trees and animals around him.
That’s why I say, what others say should not be important to a musician. Let your music speak for itself.
But as a musician or a listener when you see someone say something that you need to correct , then by all means do that. It is your responsibility to let them know.
The term “world music” has no place, never had a place, in the world we live in. It might have been created in the best of intentions but it is not a representative and universal term, it segregates music , especially traditional music from anywhere in the world from the rest.
When I heard the word world music first as a kid I used to think that it was a word invented in the colonialist days by some white traveler who came to discover the “mysterious big Africa” (I discovered later it was invented in the 20th century ), but that was my first impression of the word and it was the right impression. Some might say the term is not as relevant today as it used to be and that may be somewhat but not entirely true but , the values it represents , the main fall and demeaning stereotypes it spreads and the tribal fetishim attitude towards music that’s not pre approved by the mainstream western world is still pretty much relevant.
To make things worse they use terms such as Ethnic music. Just think about the etymology of that combination of words , Ethnic music. It tells you all you need to know about what’s wrong with the word world music and all its friends and the (probably subconscious) mentality behind it.
It’s born from the untrue, unsaid, unexpressed thought that everything that comes from the west is the pinnacle of everything, the top, the one thing that is happening in the world that is worth taking the time to enjoy, the only way forward the only way to the future.
Again if it was only in the west and by westerners that this view was held it wouldn’t have bothered me much, but thanks to education and entertainment all over the world being heavily westernized, it’s people who are owners of the cultures that are being diminished who also hold these views, looking down on their own “third world” culture and praising the “western civilized developed first and second worlds’.
Not only are these terms confusing, they are offensive and unnecessary, and they do more harm than good.
It’s like it has this very ancient roman colonialist approach…like “Ancient Rome” is the center of the world, it’s capital, and music from there is the music that matters. The music that influences everything else around it that should be treated with respect and all seriousness. On the other hand the music that comes from the other places , from the “colonised places” can all be put in one category one basket because it is something you play at a dinner party to impress your very important guests, music from the “land of the slaves”, the “help”, the “dangerous ethnic tribal mysterious lands out there somewhere”, ” lands that we don’t know about and that we fear and wonder about”, “the only adventurers dare to go to”… that’s the ill feeling that these terms give me.
If one wants to label a piece of music , how about labeling it as it should be, (if it even needs to be labeled at all) and not put all that music in one basket, in order to sell it and make it more understandable or exotic or exciting for “this and that”audience. Each piece of music is unique and has it’s own characteristic, and by using these “catch-all” labels they are robbing themselves from actually discovering and enjoying the music organically and in a true beautiful and pure way. A way that actually has you connect with the artist in that moment those minutes that you are sitting down, dancing, laying down to listen to that beautiful piece. When you discover music using these labels as World music, even if you are a true fan of such-and-such genre other than “the big culturally relevant cities of the world” or whatever, you are actually unknowingly participating in the disrespect of the music you are listening to and love so much, and your experience is tainted. Why is it tainted? Because the artist you are listening to will be trapped in these terms and never get to actually express his or her individuality to you. He or she knows it but you won’t get to know it, and the worst thing is that a lot of genuine lovers of the music from everywhere in the world including westerners, Africans, Europeans, Americans, Asians, South Americans, youth and old from all over follow “trend makers” from this frame of mind. They might be genuine lovers of the music, but they do the same thing.
When you don’t take the time to actually truly absorb and understand an artist, you are perpetuating cliches that make you forget what the music is actually about, which is about the artists and what they felt at that moment they made this piece. This is not just a statement for the artists who are segregated in the world music section but for all who are actually trapped in a label no matter what it is.
One thing should always remember after all the wind and fuss, and empty or beautiful words, what matters is the music. Listen to the music. Forget about all your preconceptions when you listen to a piece. Forget about all the labels even if you found the music you are listening to through passing by in this or that section in the music store. Just forget about where you found it. Close your eyes and absorb yourself in the moment. Listen, truly listen, and try to feel what the music is doing to you. If you are able to do that then maybe, maybe you are able to release the taint of those narrow labels and connect with the work with the piece of music, like you should.
This is also my philosophy of everything else in life. I try not to label and judge, because the labels I or you come up with might not be correct. I try to give tracks, people, the moment to show me who they are first. I don’t believe in judging based on first impressions, even the hundredth impression might be the wrong one about that idea, place, culture, person, let alone the first one. I like to take my time, and get to know things. If not what’s the point of letting things you feel get labeled by someone else? Without giving yourself the chance to actually experience it first hand? Always looking at things through that labels’ lens is how ideas get distorted, abused and misused.
It’s all about hitting the right people at the right time really with the right sound. Any time could be the right time, any people could be the right people, and any sound could be the right sound. The important factor in all this, the thing that makes the difference is feel, vibe, and no one can teach you how to feel, no one can teach you how to vibe, everyone has got their own way.
Listen to that energy that’s always around, always, it never leaves. If you can’t feel it at times it’s not that it’s not there, maybe you should listen more carefully . That’s what music, tibeb, artistry is for me, and listening is where music making starts, not just with your ears. When you can do that, more or less free from all the things that have been installed in your head all the forged stereotypes, all the untrue definitions and perceptions clouding the space between us and that energy, between humans trying to connect to each other ourselves and to all that’s around, that’s when you will be able to share and to experience what has been shared with you. At least that’s what I have always believed and what I have always tried to achieve in all that I do. It’s not about where you are from, or what you have been listening to all your life, or what you have been told to listen to by someone else, it’s about what is being said to you, about that message, that feeling , that purpose, that lesson that has been tailor made for you in this life. Open your ears, your eyes, your hearts, whatever senses you use to listen, to express yourself, just listen and I assure when you hear it you will know.
The beauty of this century is that you can do so much with so little equipment. It does not take the lack of finances, infrastructure and difficulties that come because of it out of the equation, but it makes things easier than they were 10 years ago even. That’s the power of music technology, you can do a lot with very little. I went to film school for sometime a while back and my teacher always use to say, “use what you have how you should use it, it’s not all about having the biggest camera and the biggest crew and the biggest budget , it’s about what you can do with what you have.” For me that’s what creativity is all about, and I see it everyday, we all do. if we look around there is evidence of it everywhere. I am surrounded by so many creative people who do exactly that. I am very lucky.
What’s on the ground is lacking. Understanding needs to grow in order for things to grow. People everywhere have to be able to have their music reach everywhere it can possibly reach. Just like most music from elsewhere reaches Algiers, Luanda, Cape town, and Addis Ababa. Young people and old people have to be able to play in this big field we call the globalized world, if the world is going to be better this can’t just be a one way road. One culture can’t be the influence on everyone else’s. Cultures have to feed off of each other. That’s how they grow, by learning and understanding each other , not by one or a chosen few telling all the rest it’s the best one and all else is wrong or just their to spice things up. Love and understanding, that’s the only way things are going to change for the better.”